CHICAGO (CBS) — An elderly woman was critically injured in a fire in the Gresham neighborhood early Wednesday.
Frozen hydrants and construction in the area made it difficult for firefighters to get to the blaze in the 7600 block of South Union Avenue.
The fire started shortly after 1 a.m. in 92-year-old Sophie Foster’s second-floor apartment in a single-family home that had been converted into a two-flat.
Foster’s neighbor, Jerome Powell, called 911, but feared it was too late for her.
“It was somebody in there. They wasn’t going to make it out,” he said.
Derek Jackson arrived shortly after the fire broke out. He immediately heard from neighbors that Foster was missing. Judging from the intensity of the flames, he said he and other witnesses didn’t think she would make it out of the building alive. Then he walked to the back of the building and saw firefighters helping Foster down the back steps.
“There’s Miss Foster, and it was amazing to see the firemen actually walking a 92-year-old woman down the stairs, and she was still holding on. Once she got to the front, the police officers saw that she didn’t have on any shoes, but socks, and they picked her up and carried her,” he said. “I didn’t think anybody could survive that, even the firemen; from the smoke, and then they weren’t able to get any water on the fire. I mean … smoke and fire was coming out of the roof. I mean, it was totally involved.”
The Fire Department said Foster made it out of her apartment on her own, but firefighters helped her down the last few steps to get outside.
Neighbors said Foster fell and hurt herself while making her escape. Her family said she was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. Her apartment was gutted by flames, and was a total loss.
The Fire Department said the fire was the result of the misuse of overloaded extension cords in Foster’s apartment.
Firefighters had other challenges to deal with, other than the intense flames. Witnesses said a major construction project on the block also made it very difficult for firefighters to access the building and a nearby hydrant.